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IBM targets Goldeneye to keep its qubits chilled

IBM has ambitions to build a million-plus quantum computer. To get there, it is building a fridge bigger than anything commercially available

IBM has unveiled plans to develop a 1,000-plus qubit device, called Quantum Condor, as a milestone towards a million-plus qubit system.

IBM’s largest quantum computer to date has 64 qubits. The company’s first step over 100 qubits is a 127-qubit IBM Quantum Eagle processor, which is due out next year. This will be followed in 2022 by the 433-qubit IBM Quantum Osprey system, then the 1,221-qubit Quantum Condor system in 2023.

In a blog post outlining the strategy, Jay Gambetta, IBM fellow and vice-president of IBM Quantum, described how the roadmap for quantum computing would put IBM on a course towards a future million-plus qubit processor. This, he said, would involve industry-leading knowledge, multidisciplinary teams and agile methodology to improve every element of quantum computer systems.

To move to a million-plus qubit machine, Gambetta said IBM was developing a dilution refrigerator, which would be larger than any currently available commercially.

“The design principles established for our smaller processors will set us on a course to release a 433-qubit IBM Quantum Osprey system in 2022. More efficient and denser controls and cryogenic infrastructure will ensure that scaling up our processors doesn’t sacrifice the performance of our individual qubits, introduce further sources of noise, or take up too large a footprint,” Gambetta said in the post.

The 1,221-qubit IBM Quantum Condor processor will build on previous processors and aim to lower “two-qubit errors”, which Gambetta said would enable IBM to run longer quantum circuits.

“We think of Condor as an inflection point, a milestone that marks our ability to implement error correction and scale up our devices, while simultaneously complex enough to explore potential quantum advantages – problems that we can solve more efficiently on a quantum computer than on the world’s best supercomputers,” he said.

“The 10ft tall and 6ft wide ‘super-fridge’ is a dilution refrigerator larger than any commercially available today. Our team has designed this behemoth with a million-qubit system in mind, and has already begun fundamental feasibility tests”
Jay Gambetta, IBM Quantum

IBM hopes the development required to build Condor will enable the company’s quantum computing engineers to overcome some of the most pressing challenges in how to scale up a quantum computer. However, Gambetta said cooling the machine would be critical, which is why IBM is looking to develop a refrigeration unit that goes beyond anything that is available commercially today.

Discussing the work IBM is taking on to build a cooler for future iterations of its quantum computers, he said: “The 10ft tall and 6ft wide ‘super-fridge’ – internally codenamed Goldeneye – is a dilution refrigerator larger than any commercially available today. Our team has designed this behemoth with a million-qubit system in mind, and has already begun fundamental feasibility tests.

“Ultimately, we envision a future where quantum interconnects link dilution refrigerators, each holding a million qubits like the intranet links supercomputing processors, creating a massively parallel quantum computer capable of changing the world.”

While IBM has set out a roadmap to develop larger and larger qubit systems, Gambetta acknowledges the challenges the company is facing in building quantum computers.

“Knowing the way forward doesn’t remove the obstacles; we face some of the biggest challenges in the history of technological progress. But, with our clear vision, a fault-tolerant quantum computer now feels like an achievable goal within the coming decade,” he wrote in the blog.

Read more about quantum computers

  • Quantum computing takes a radically different approach to programming. IBM’s education head discusses how to get started.
  • Google claims it has developed an algorithm for a quantum computer that would take a traditional “classical” computer 10,000 years to run. We investigate.

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